How Puberty Can Affect Concentration and Learning

Puberty can be tough for students as they deal with physical, mental and emotional changes. It’s not surprising that schoolwork often suffers as adolescents lose concentration and struggle with motivation. 

To help students manage this challenging time, parents need a good understanding of how puberty affects concentration and learning. 

The Hormonal Roller Coaster

Puberty begins roughly around the ages of 10 – 11 and involves vast hormonal changes. These changes can lead to heightened emotional responses and unpredictable mood swings. When adolescents feel angry, depressed or frustrated, they struggle to stay focused in class.

An Australian study of students aged 10 – 15 found that as children progress into adolescence, their self-esteem declines and they value school less. Unsurprisingly, as students’ interest in school ebbed, so did their academic results. 

The findings are important because they show that steps need to be taken to ensure students continue to value education. This is complicated by the fact that teenager’s brains are directed more towards ‘social learning’ than books as they try to work out where they belong in the world. 

When peer relationships take centre stage in their life, many adolescents become argumentative and begin to rebel against authority. Good students may stop caring about grades and refuse to do homework, leaving parents feeling shocked and hurt.

The Developing Brain 

It’s not just hormones that impact learning and behaviour. Scientists have found the adolescent brain continues to develop well into adulthood. According to recent research the brain structure of adolescents is very similar to that of younger children. 

Although adolescents may look like young adults, they are still children in many ways. This leads to problems when they’re expected to behave in a mature manner that doesn’t match their mental growth. 

According to Dr Sarah-Jayne Blakemore who led a study on brain development, chaotic thought patterns persist in adolescents because they have excess grey matter. This hinders neural transmissions and negatively affects adolescents’ decision-making abilities. 

Parents and teachers need to keep in mind that adolescents still have a lot of growing up to do. They should avoid placing unrealistic expectations and pressure on them which they may not be equipped to handle. 

Tips to Help Your Adolescent 

These tips can make navigating puberty easier for parents and students: 

*Help students stay motivated to learn by reinforcing the importance for education for their future career. When they can see school’s relevance, adolescents will take learning more seriously. 

*The hormones released during adolescence have been found to heighten the brain reward system, making kids more receptive to positive reinforcement. Encourage your child to study by offering incentives.

*As the adolescent brain is geared towards social learning, many students will feel more enthusiastic about study when others are involved. Encourage your child to join a study group or find a study buddy.

*As they grow up, adolescents often lose interest in previous activities and can become more sedentary. Make an effort to find other activities they enjoy as exercise is vital for mental and physical health.

With plenty of support, students will continue to learn and thrive at school through puberty. 

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